Childcare workers jailed for sex abuse

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The Independent Online

Two former childcare workers, one of them a 69-year-old woman, received jail sentences yesterday for the repeated sexual abuse of children in their care in Northern Ireland.

Two former childcare workers, one of them a 69-year-old woman, received jail sentences yesterday for the repeated sexual abuse of children in their care in Northern Ireland.

In a case dating back a quarter of a century, the woman, Margaret Hewitt, was jailed for 11 years. Her former co-worker, George Anderson, 46, received an 18-year sentence for offences committed in a now-demolished Barnardos home in north Belfast in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Mr Justice Weir criticised Barnardos for placing unqualified staff in charge of young children. The judge said: "Making every possible allowance for the difference between residential social work standards then and now, such incompetence and neglect on the part of Barnardos' then management is difficult to comprehend."

Hewitt, formerly from Larne, Co Antrim, was found guilty of 53 charges, including indecent assault, gross indecency and assault. Anderson, from Ballycarry in Co Antrim but recently living in England, was convicted of 17 offences, including two counts of rape, indecent assault and gross indecency.

The prosecution said sexual abuse had been a regular feature in the lives of the children under the care of Hewitt and Anderson. The victims were housed "in a place which should have been the safest place for them, but where they were subjected to physical cruelty and sexual abuse".

Earlier this year eight victims of the pair were awarded compensation of between £20,000 and £30,000.

Barnardos said they hoped that seeing the offenders punished would give the complainants some comfort.